NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — When Edward “T-Moe” Hellier arrived at Merrimack College last fall as a sophomore transfer student, he wondered if his days of playing lacrosse might be over.

Eight months later, Hellier, a 2015 South Portland High grad, is preparing for the biggest game of his life.

Nudged into trying out for the men’s lacrosse team by a new roommate, Hellier has gone from fourth-string walk-on in the fall to starting goalie for Merrimack, which will face No. 1 Limestone College of Gaffney, South Carolina, in Sunday’s 2 p.m., NCAA Division II national championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

“It’s something every kid dreams about when you’re playing lacrosse, playing for a national championship,” Hellier said Wednesday. “I mean, I had no idea I’d be starting in a championship game when I came here. I was just hoping to make the team at first.”

Hellier keyed South Portland’s 2014 Class A title team as a junior and was named the Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year as a senior.

As a freshman at Goucher College, a Division III team in Towson, Maryland, Hellier played in 10 games with one start. The lacrosse was fine but Hellier said the school and locale turned out to be a poor fit.

“Baltimore’s got a different vibe than New England. I’ve been in New England my whole life. The change of pace wasn’t for me,” Hellier said.

Merrimack Coach Mike Morgan said he heard about Hellier in an email from South Portland Coach Tom Fiorini.

“We were down to two goalies and I was like, great, if he’s a living, breathing goalie, I’ll take him. Literally, that’s what we thought. We just needed depth,” Morgan said.

Morgan wasn’t wowed immediately but saw enough in a tryout to keep Hellier in the fall. Gradually, Hellier’s calm demeanor, stick skills and ball-stopping ability became more evident. The day before the opener, Hellier was told he’d start.

Hellier started 17 of Merrimack’s 18 games and despite a midseason Achilles injury, posted a 7.88 goals-against average and a .559 save percentage. In the NCAA playoffs, Hellier made 12 saves in a 10-5 win against LeMoyne, which had won seven straight games against Merrimack, then had nine saves in a 17-9 rout of Adelphi in the semifinals.

“It’s just wild, really, how a kid, a walk-on from Maine, is now playing in the national championship game as your goalie,” said Morgan. “We just gave him an opportunity and he ran with it.”

Merrimack, ranked fourth in Division II, is 15-3 and making its first title-game appearance after semifinal losses the past two seasons. Limestone is 20-1 and playing in its fourth straight NCAA championship game, winning titles in 2014 and 2015.

Merrimack handed Limestone its only loss, 18-13, at a neutral site in Gambrills, Maryland, on April 23, coming back from a 5-1 first-quarter deficit.

“We hung T-Moe out to dry early in that game. Some of those goals they scored were right on top of him,” Morgan said. “Then once the game tightened up, he played great in the third and fourth quarters, made a lot of key saves.”

Hellier has answered to T-Moe his whole life. His father Edward, a beloved youth coach in South Portland who died in 2013, was known as Ted. Susan and Ted Hellier planned on calling their son Teddy Marley, but older sister Eliza mispronounced it as Teddy Moe. Soon it was simply T-Moe.

“Everyone still calls me that. It’s not a name that goes away,” Hellier said.

Sunday’s full day of college lacrosse at Gillette Stadium includes the Division I women’s final at 11 a.m., and the men’s Division III final at 5 p.m.

This will be the fourth time Gillette has hosted to the men’s lacrosse championships (the Division I game is Monday). The Division II and III games have drawn as many as 24,317 combined fans in the past.

Merrimack’s biggest announced crowd this year was 712 for a Northeast-10 playoff game against Southern New Hampshire.

“Growing up, being a Pats fan my whole life, to step on the same field that (Tom) Brady plays on every Sunday is going to be awesome,” Hellier said.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig